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Friday, February 18, 2011

A moose on the trails

Yesterday, the small herd of deer continued its tour of my trail cameras. The doe on the far left is the most curious of the herd. She sniffs every scent post. Here, she's sniffing a stump that's just out of the camera's view and has been marked by a bobcat within the past month.
Last night, it snowed hard for a brief time. I captured a classic winter view of a coyote passing through our clearing.
This morning, K and I headed out for our snowbike ride early. The trails were dusted with new snow - perfect animal tracking conditions. When we hit the main trail network, I immediately spotted the familiar tracks of our bobcat. He'd traveled our trails after the snow last night but didn't visit our clearing. I was happy to see evidence that he is still in our territory despite the extreme winter weather we had a couple of weeks ago.
I pedaled hard to make it up high in time for sunrise. It was worth the effort.
The promontory where we view the eastern horizon at sunrise is almost the exact spot where a mountain lion felled a deer last May. The memory of finding the deer carcass at dawn that day always simmers in my mind as I enjoy the sunrise. K thinks that it's her job to cover my back. This morning, she planted herself next to my bike and swiveled her head to and fro as she surveyed for danger.

Then, I asked her to climb onto a boulder for a photo. She loves towering over everyone from her perches.
When we rode onward from our viewpoint, we ran into the Runner and R. We are SO happy that R has had no limp whatsoever since the episode two evenings ago. In fact, we released him to briefly play with K.
They sprint so hard when they frolic that it's the most intense test that any injury can have. R passed with flying colors!
More than one of you asked if R was the only puppy in his litter with elbow dysplasia. When R was diagnosed, no other puppies in his litter had elbow problems. I haven't asked the breeder for an update. She said that R was the first puppy with elbow dysplasia anywhere in her lines. Based on how carefully she monitored his situation and examined the details of his condition, I believed her. It's one of those orthopedic problems, like hip dysplasia, that will be very hard to eliminate from dogs because elbow conformation is almost certainly controlled by multiple genes.

After biking with K, I headed out to my favorite snowbiking trails solo. I'd never ridden them in snow before this week, and I'm already addicted to them.
I started in an open area with aspen groves but soon wended my way deep into a pine forest. As I climbed, I heard an almost explosive snap of branch. I immediately knew that a large animal must have broken the branch - not a coyote or snowshoe hare whose tracks dotted the trail. I pulled my foot out of my pedal and tried to plant it. However, the snow to the side of the trail wasn't packed, and I fell into powder up to my butt.

As I scrambled out of the powder, I stared into the forest, catching a glimpse of a retreating hulking brown animal through the maze of trees. He's not visible in this photo - I was too late with my camera.

My first guess was that he was a moose. But, I also know that we tend to create mirages in our minds of the animals who we want to see. So, I was a tiny bit skeptical because my glimpse was so fleeting.

I brushed off the snow sticking to all my clothes, and I started pedaling up the mountain again. I emerged from the shaded pine forest into a spectacularly bright day. Just looking at the reflective snow from the shade, I felt glad that I'd remembered to wear sun screen.
I climbed past an abandoned mine with the old iron equipment scattered everywhere.
I emerged onto a windswept plateau, soaking up the stark beauty and utter silence. The voice in my head was having an argument. I wanted to go further but I was already out much longer than planned. Finally, prudence won. I turned around and started my descent toward civilization.

I careened downhill through the open meadows with tall aspen trees scattered throughout them and re-entered the pine forest.

I screeched to a halt near where I'd fallen into the powder while watching the moose retreat a short time earlier. Now, there were moose tracks stamped on my tire tracks. They came out of the forest, through several feet of snow, walked next to my track, stepping on it occasionally, and then re-entered the forest on the other side of the trail. Clearly, the moose had been on the trail while I was up on the windswept plateau.

Each of the tracks shown below was a couple of feet deep. Moose have long legs!
The moose walked next to my tire tracks, leaving a gift along the way.
So, my tentative identification of the brown butt that I glimpsed in the forest was correct. I saw a moose! I am aware that moose can be dangerous so I'll be on my toes during future rides on this trail. But, my overwhelming feeling is thankfulness that this species is flourishing in Colorado, and I was lucky enough to see one in the forest.

18 comments:

  1. I still cannot beleeves how blue da sky is in your neck of da woods! Hopefully da moose will stick around long enough fur you to gets a picture of hims, from a safe distance only :)

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

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  2. Maybe it's a wild Mastiff ;-)


    Love the action shots of The LabraDuo!

    AND of course, the coyote!

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  3. Wow - look at those skies. We had blue ones here today, but nothing like those.

    The Picky Boy has a sore front leg - no idea what happened but he has winced in pain a few times since late afternoon, so we will be off to the vet in the morning:( But at least I am glad he finally found a way to let me know he is hurting.

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  4. I'm so glad that R is showing no lasting effects of his lameness a couple of days ago. It's so hard to think of them in pain.

    That's wonderful about the moose. Maybe, sometime, you'll catch it on a camera. Wouldn't that be something?

    You commented about the squirrels on my blog. They're Eastern Gray Squirrels, not the Pine Squirrels that you have there. They're usually pretty sociable, though right now is mating season here and things can get a little wild and woolly at times.

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  5. judging by the gift that the moose left, he may have been just as startled as you were! ;)
    i'm glad to hear that R's elbow appears to be okay. i didn't know he had dysplasia. i've got my fingers crossed that the limp doesn't return. it's such a joy seeing pictures of him running with those floppy ears. :)

    the booker man and asa's mama

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  6. I never get tired of your pictures - especially the beautiful coyotes. And wow, a moose!

    Your pal, PIp

    P.S.: So glad R is doing better.

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  7. Wow! I envy your adventures.. I also envy your ability to get out of a warm bed and bike in the snow by sunrise!

    Do you have about a gallon of coffee before you go?

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  8. R and K look like they're having the Clash of the Titans! I know it's all in play, but they sure look ferocious.

    I'm glad it was a moose you had on your close encounter and that it wasn't any closer. I guess he was waiting for you to blaze a trail for easier walking! :P I've heard that they can be a force to be reckoned with, though.

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  9. How marvellous to be so close to a Moose. We've been spoilt by coyotes and wild cats but what elusive animal haven't you seen yet ?

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  10. That last picture looks like my backyard. Maybe it wasn't Mango after all.

    Mango Momma

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  11. Your photography is spectacular, but then so is your area.

    You mentioned that you had gone the high Omega 3 route with your dogs. Will you email me and let me know why you did it, how it worked and did you keep it up. Do you recommend it? Are there any pitfalls? Do you have any tips? I want to do whatever I can for Samba. I hope this is the right way.
    Sue
    wilcoxhall@ymail.com

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  12. You sure it wasn't a Sasquatch?...until you see it then....you just never know ;-)

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  13. Yay, I'm so glad the bobcat is still around your territory! I love how the skies look so clear and blue!

    Woofs,
    Pepsi

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  14. So so glad to hear that R's limp seemed to resolve itself. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to restrict that pup's exercise.

    Wow! Those moose tracks are something! That's one creature that seems so majestic and scary at the same time. It would be neat to capture it on one of your cameras.

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  15. Glad R is feeling better!
    And that your run-in with the moose was a peaceful one. I can't imagine it's coincidence that the moose "marked" the spot where you got off your bike...interesting.
    And those pics are lovely - nothing like that intense blue over that aspen grove!

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  16. I know I've probably said this before, but yours is one of my favorite blogs!! I love following your adventures and looking at all of your photos! Keep up the good work! You live in such an amazingly beautiful place. I'm not a big winter fan, but if it's going to be cold, I think there should be snow to make winter pretty. We don't have snow here, and it makes my winter photos pretty ugly (dead grass, naked branches, etc.) I always enjoy my visits to your world, and can't wait to see what's ahead, and I have a feeling that springtime through your lenses will be amazing!!

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  17. Great photos of the dogs running with the sticks. I wish I could capture action shots as well.

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